As a medical cannabis patient, you’ve likely heard the terms “indica,” “sativa,” or “hybrid.” Patients often find themselves wondering what these terms mean, what the differences are between them and how they work from a medicinal standpoint. Originally, there were two primary types of cannabis plants known as “cannabis indica” and “cannabis sativa.” After generations of crossbreeding it is rare to find a pure indica or pure sativa strain. Instead, most strains of cannabis are now indica dominant, sativa dominant or hybrid. As expected, different plant genetics may lead to different medicinal effects.
Indica plants are typically shorter with wide leaves. Buds of an indica plant will usually be dense. Patients will typically find that indica based strains are more relaxing. An indica strain will usually be associated with more bodily sensations. Therefore, these strains are often recommended for nighttime use.
Sativa plants are typically taller with long thin leaves. The bud of a sativa plant is typically less dense and somewhat feathery. Sativa products usually come with a cerebral feeling. Traditionally, sativa strains are more uplifting and euphoric and are recommended for daytime use.
A hybrid is a cannabis plant that is a crossbreed between an indica and sativa plant. There are very few cannabis strains that are of true indica or true sativa variety. Instead, most strains of cannabis are a hybrid of the two. Within this subset, there can be indica dominant, and sativa dominant strains. There are also hybrid strains that are a relatively even indica/sativa split. It is important to note this is not an exact science and some indica strains can produce sativa like effects and some sativa strains may behave like indica strains.
Licensed producers are not required to disclose whether their plants are indica or sativa based. Some producers choose not to disclose this information at all while others will exclusively produce hybrid strains.
Keep in mind that while the plant genetics plays a role in how products may affect you, it is not the only contributing factor. If you have a product that is 10% THC and 8% CBD it may affect you differently if it is an indica dominant as opposed to if it is sativa dominant. That said, a plant with the same genetic makeup (indica, sativa, hybrid) and same cannabinoid content (THC, CBD) can also affect you differently depending on how the product was grown. Products grown indoors or under artificial light may affect you different than products grown outdoors or in greenhouses under natural light.
Knowing the genetics of your plants can be beneficial in helping you, your educator and your physician identify the proper product for you. Keep in mind that this is only one of the several dynamics present when finding the product that best suits you. Plant genus should not be the sole or deciding factor but part of a full toolbox along with your knowledge on cannabinoid content, terpene profiles, growth techniques and more.
Each patient is unique and should always consult a healthcare professional concerning any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment options.